Political Ideas and Values

Episode 1 | June 28, 2006

Here’s the first podcast in the new series. The first part of a fascinating interview with Dan of TDAXP.

Pilot Episode : dan tdaxp (part 1)

Note : You can use comments here on this blog-post to talk about anything Dan (or I) am saying.

If you want to check out dan’s site, it’s www.tdaxp.com. I was particularly intrigued by him when I first came across his political simulation project.


Posted in piavp


  1. Pingback by Anonymous — June 28, 2006 @ 6:06 pm

  2. Hi Phil,

    a few off the cuff thoughts after a listen to the first podcast:

    1. on ‘efficient’ or ‘successful’ ‘cultures’, occurred to me there are two big concerns that need to be brought into any such evolutionary model: the timescale for evaluating ‘success’; randomness.

    eg. the Lakota example (I know as little as you about the history) – if you were evaluating the success of the ‘Lakota culture’ with a cut-off just before the European invasion, it seems it would be the model of a culture successfully adapting away from agricultural to great plains conditions. The culture is seen as a failure because of the timescale chosen.

    And because of an unanticipated ‘exogenous’ shock (for the Sioux), the arrival of the Europeans. Was the culture a ‘failure’ because it wasn’t suited to the new environment, or should we just say ‘unlucky’?

    Eg. imaginary scenario, another kind of exogenous shock to the US-Lakota system: a nuclear strike or biological warfare destroys US urban civilisation, decimates the population and we have a post-apocalyptic environment something like the great plains of old. On this new timescale, maybe the Lakota culture is ready to step into the breach.

    2. I suppose a counter is to change the scale of analysis of a culture and pan out to the Sioux (Lakota + Dakota): the argument being that diversity of strategies within a culture makes survival/success more likely to withstand a range of random shocks. But here a) you have to be careful about playing fast and loose with your ‘cultures’, redefining the scale to suit your argument; b) I’m sure there are counter-examples anyway. Eg. what about the classic story of the success of the chinese ‘culture’/’nation’ as unified and centralised by imperial power? Diversity isn’t always strength.

    3. interesting, for a Catholic thinker, all this focus on success and stepping away from the moral questions. (Or maybe we get to moral assessments of cultures in part 2). For me ‘survival’ is an important part of thinking about political projects (it falls under the heading of ‘feasibility’, which we’ve discussed before – little point advocating a political project that is bound to fail) but can’t be all of it. Even if you could prove to me that eg. US or Chinese imperialist cultures were the strongest, most likely to succeed, I’d still be against them.

    Comment by darius — June 29, 2006 @ 8:18 am

  3. Wow,

    Cool feedback already. Podcasts rock!


    Lakota culture as we know it was an adaption to the settlement of the continent.

    When the Federal government made contact with Sioux, they were already expelled from their homeland by other Indians and increasingly mobile. Because the federal forces were trying to subdue other Indian tribes the Sioux already had bad relationships with, the United States of America supplied the Great Sioux Nation with guns and horses. In return the GSN would attack with a knowledge of the land and excellent at irregular warfare that the USA was incapable of (for both practical and ethical reasons).

    (This is similar to supplying the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s. Enemy-of-your-enemy is your friend, to both sides.)

    The Lakota optimized much more for this lifestyle than the Dakota. After the Dakota defeat during Dakota-American War, the Dakota resumed their original agricultural lifestyle in Minnesota and eastern South Dakota (albiet on lands recently confiscated by the Dakota-American alliance from the Ojibwe). The Lakota continued fighting on, but were unable to successfully re-adopt a non-nomadic lifestyle.

    “Was the culture a ‘failure’ because it wasn’t suited to the new environment, or should we just say ‘unlucky’?”

    Ultimately, it was “unfit” in the Darwinian sense. I imagine most species extinctions are through a combination of failure and bad luck.

    At this point, Sioux culture is probably past the critical point of extinction. Even a nuclear war that obliterates everyone in the world except those in West-River South Dakota (which roughly matches the boundaries of the Great Sioux Nation established in the Treaty of Fort Laramie) would be overwhelmingly English-speaking white.

    The second point reminds me of a debate on speciaization I stumbled into. If one defines a culture mearly as a space-time line of beliefs and practices distinct from others, then a culture can undergo any amount of change and still be the same culture. If one defines it as a fuzzy category by presense of certain behaviors and beliefs, then clearly a culture could mutate into something completely different.

    There is no Chinese nation, and never has been one. China is an Empire, in the sense that Europe was an Empire under Charles V. There is no unifying spoken language and little history of political consolidation. “The mountains are high, and the Emperor is far away” has been the case for most of Chinese history. (By spreading Mandarin China is hoping to create a unified spoken language, so this may change in the future.)

    Comment by Dan tdaxp — June 29, 2006 @ 1:43 pm

  4. Phil Jones’ tdaxp Podcast, and More Cool Links

    Phil Jones, the ulra-productive blogger behind BeatBlog, Blahsploitation, PlatformWars, OPTIMAES, SmartDisorganized, SupplyLearner, and ThoughtStorms,has released his podcast interview of tdaxp.

    Being interviewed was awesome, especially with someo…

    Trackback by tdaxp — June 30, 2006 @ 12:18 am

  5. nice podcast. i posted a response: http://seanmeade.blogspot.com/2006/07/tdaxp-podcast.html

    Comment by Sean — July 8, 2006 @ 2:24 pm

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Phil Jones, chronic internet addict since 1995.







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